Quadruple amputee Philippe Croizon has successfully swam from Alaska to Russia, braving freezing waters and relying on paddle-like prosthetics to cut through the currents of the Bering Strait.
The Frenchman, whose limbs were amputated after he suffered a freak 20,000 volt accident in 1994, has now completed his quest to cross the waterways connecting the continents of Oceania, Asia, Europe, Africa, and America in his Intercontinental Straits Swimming Challenge.
Croizon donned multiple body suits on Saturday to combat the icy waters, about 39 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius), along with wild waters, with swells of 6 to 8 feet (1.8-2.4 m). Heavy fog made navigating difficult as well.
The journey, from Alaska’s Little Diomede Island to the Russian maritime border near Big Diomede Island, measured about 2.5 miles (4 km) and took the swimmer about an hour and 15 minutes to complete.
‘Philippe said it was the hardest thing he ever did, even harder than crossing the English Channel,’ Marc Gaviard, coordinator for the expedition, told Reuters. When he had finished, ‘He was totally out of energy.’
Long distance swimmer, Arnaud Chassery, accompanied Croizon for the swim.
The 44-year-old Croizon is the second person to swim the Bering Strait from Alaska to Russia. American long-distance swimmer Lynne Cox was the first to swim the route in 1987.
Croizon took on the swimming challenge to raise awareness of the abilities of handicapped people.
In May, the father-of-two completed the first part of the challenge swimming from Australia to Asia in a 12 mi (20 km) journey from Papua New Guinea to Indonesia in seven-and-a-half hours.
Then a month later, he crossed the Red Sea from Egypt to Jordan, for the Asia to Africa portion, over a distance of 12 mi (19 km) in about 5 hours.
In July, he completed the 9 mi (14 km) journey from Europe to Asia, swimming the Strait of Gibraltar, in over five hours.
He is now heading to London to work as a radio and television commentator during the Paralympics.
The limbless Frenchman first attracted worldwide attention after swimming across the English Channel two years ago in a time of just over 13 hours.
To achieve the swims he uses specially adapted artificial legs fitted with giant flippers.
The former electrical engineer lost the use of his lower limbs 18 years ago at the age of 26 when he suffered 20,000 volt electric shocks while changing a TV aerial.
It is believed the first shock stopped his heart beating, while the second actually jolted it back into action and saved his life.
Over a period of several months surgeons attempted to save his limbs but were eventually forced to amputate his arms and legs.
A keen sportsman prior to his accident Croizon spent months in hospital followed by years of physical re-education. He has battled depression and despondency to return to the world of sporting achievement.